Campus news in brief

CMU students to participate in The Story Collider show in the South Side

Five Carnegie Mellon graduate students will be sharing the stories behind their research on Monday, Oct. 6 at the second collaborative event between The Story Collider and Public Communication for Researchers. The Story Collider is a Boston-based weekly podcast promoting people’s experiences with science and exploring how science changed their lives or affected them personally. Similarly, Public Communication for Researchers is a student organization aiming to improve the public’s perception and understanding of science through dialogue.

Titled “Reactions,” the show features five graduate students from the College of Engineering, the School of Computer Science, and the Mellon College of Science. Casey Canfield, an engineering and public policy Ph.D. student; Matineh Eyb Poosh, a civil and environmental engineering Ph.D. student; Vrushali Fangal, a computational biology master’s student; Adam Foote (MCS ‘11); and Anvesh Komuravelli, a computer science Ph.D. student; will be taking the stage. Audiences for the event should expect to hear narratives on subjects from sea urchins in a polar vortex to finding Wi-Fi at sea.

The Story Collider’s Senior Producer Erin Barker and Boston producer Ari Daniel Shapiro will be hosting “Reactions” at 8 p.m. on Oct. 6 at the South Side’s Rex Theater.

Researcher explains why people endure uncomfortable situations for philanthropy

Christopher Olivola, assistant professor of marketing in the Tepper School of Business, recently co-authored a new study aiming to explain why people endure uncomfortable situations for the sake of giving. Olivola conducts research on human decision-making and behavioral economics. The study, titled “The Martyrdom Effect: When Pain and Effort Increase Prosocial Contributions.” was co-authored by Princeton University professor Eldar Shafir and published by the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.

Olivola described in a university press release that when someone forgoes comfort for a cause — for example, the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge — it strengthens the significance of the charitable act. Running a marathon or other strenuous physical activities make the giver feel better about their giving than donating cookies to a bake sale or donating money at a charity gala. Consequently, donations increase as the discomfort increases. Olivola described this trend as the “Martyrdom Effect.”

“However,” Olivola said, “our experiments have also found this to be true only if the cause seeks to reduce human suffering, such as the difficult symptoms of ALS. In other words, dumping a bucket of ice water over your head to raise money for a local library or public park would not generate the same results. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge successfully made that connection.”

Experiencing pain can cause charitable givers to become more altruistic, Olivola said in the release.